by Sharon Wee

A year after I got my first full time job, I decided that my second-hand car was on its last legs and that it was time to get myself a new car.

I spent a long time doing a lot of research to try and find a car that was the cheapest and best value for money. Because when you are on a graduate salary, every dollar counts.

I visited used car lots and countless websites and then decided on getting a new and very small, economical hatch back car. I knew nothing about cars and the fear of having to pay lots of money to fix problems with a second hand one (like I had with my first car) really worried me.

Once I knew which make, model and colour of car I wanted, I researched how much people had paid for it online. I knew you had to negotiate hard and I wanted to be super prepared as to what the bottom line was. Then armed with this information, I headed to the car dealerships – I was a 22 year old on a mission!

I went to about 5 of them and each time the sales person was either arrogant, dismissed me or didn’t even want to entertain me. I wanted to buy the car – I was ready. They just assumed I was shopping around because the first thing I did was ask about the price or that I didn’t know much because I was a young girl (and I couldn’t possibly be ready to buy the car).

When I walked into the 5th dealership, I was admittedly a little frustrated and was in a little bit of a mood. The sales guy that approached me was a lot younger than the others and I admit a whole lot smarter than all of them put together.

I started talking about the price, because I was armed with all this information and ready to go into ‘fighting’ mode – bring it on car salesman!

Do you know why I say he was smart? Instead of entering into the whole pricing conversation with me, he glazed over my question and asked me this instead:

“Have you actually taken the car out for a test drive?”

Oh… I… wait a minute. Actually, I have not even driven the car. So, I told him “No, but I know that is the car I want. I have done all my research and I just want to discuss the price with you.”

Again, he glazed over my comment about price and instead said “Let’s just try the car first. You won’t know if you really like it unless you test drive it.”

Hmm… he had a point. So off I went for the test drive.

During the test drive, he took the time to talk to me and find out about why I wanted the car and just about me in general. In the span of 15 minutes he had built a relationship with me and gained my trust. Something the other 4 dealers never considered to do.

At the end of the test drive, I felt so comfortable with him, I was happy to stand there and listen to him talk about the other features of the car and the benefits of buying the car with his dealership. When it came time to talk about the price, I was in a much happier mood and since I now knew all the benefits AND trusted him, I had started to see the value beyond the actual price of the car.

In the end, did I pay the cheapest possible price for the car? Probably not. But I had done my research and what I paid was within the acceptable range so I know I didn’t get ripped off.

At that time, that was the biggest purchase I had ever made in my life. Did I wake up the next morning with buyer’s remorse? Actually, I did not.

I’m telling you, that car salesman was a genius. He spent the time to build a relationship with me, got me to experience the product so I felt what it was like to own it and got me to TRUST him. After all that, although the price was still important, it was no longer the be all and end all. I happily handed over my money and felt no buyer’s remorse the next day.

A month after I got my car, it had some mechanical issues. I called him and he was on it so quickly. Paid for my replacement car rental and followed through on getting the car fixed instead of handing me over to another department.

THAT is how you build customer loyalty. And every time I come across customer service ‘issues’ I think of him, the way he handled things and most importantly how it made ME feel as a customer.

My little car. I still have it 10 years later 🙂

In fact, I loyally continued to get my car serviced at that dealership for 8 years. Even after I moved more than 45 minutes away, I was STILL driving my car back there to get serviced. And yes, I was well aware I could get it serviced somewhere else for a whole lot less – but it was no longer about the price for me anymore.

The point I’m getting at here is that we THINK all people care about is the price when it comes to our cakes. And to some degree maybe that is true – but what are YOU doing to change that and make them think beyond the price?

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